Piano Versus Keyboard
In my last post I asked the question, “Should you get a piano or a keyboard?” and shared my top reasons for getting a piano. Now let’s look at some reasons to get a keyboard.
1. Keyboards Come in Different Sizes
Keyboard Body Sizes
Keyboards come in a variety of body sizes. They can be pretty big and hefty, to replicate the feel of a real piano, or small and light-weight to be more portable.
The size you get depends on what’s most important to you. If having something as close as possible to a real piano is important, you’ll be getting something bigger and heavier, which isn’t as friendly to transport. If you want something easy to carry around and pack away, you can get something smaller and more lightweight.
Number of Keys
In addition to different body sizes, keyboards can have different numbers of keys. A full-sized piano has 88 total keys, black and white. But keyboards can come in smaller sizes, like 61-keys and 76-keys.
On a piano, the lowest note all the way to the left is an “A”. On smaller keyboards the lowest note would be different (because some keys are not included).
Some keyboards will have “weighted” keys. Weighted keys imitate the touch response of a real piano, since real pianos have a bit of resistance to the keys as the hammers inside are being triggered. If you want your keyboard to feel like a real piano, and if you want to build finger strength as you practice playing, you’ll want weighted keys. Keyboards with weighted keys are considered “digital pianos.”
If you don’t get weighted keys, you’ll find the keys on your keyboard are very light and easy to play. This can be nice if you’re using your keyboard more like a synthesizer and less like a piano. But if you transition to a real or digital piano later, you’ll probably need to build more finger-strength before you can play as quickly as before.
The nice thing about size options is just that — you have options! If you really don’t want to make space for something as large as a piano, you can get something smaller. You can also save space by packing a keyboard in a carrying case and storing it on it’s end (but if it’s packed away, keep in mind you’ll be less likely to use it).
2. Keyboards are Portable
Since keyboards are smaller and lighter than pianos, they’re portable. You can take them to church for a service, then take them home. Or you can take them to someone’s wedding to play for the ceremony. You can hook them up outside if you have power. They give you lots of options that pianos don’t because of their portability.
3. Keyboards Are Always in Tune
One great benefit to keyboards is that they’re always in tune. Pianos require regular tuning, since they’re built with strings and soundboards. Temperature, humidity and moving a piano around will cause the strings to go out of tune, which requires hiring a professional piano tuner to come to your house for tuning.
This is an ongoing expense of owning a piano, so you want to plan for this before bringing a piano home, as these maintenance costs add up over time.
The cost of tuning a piano can vary, but if you keep your piano away from temperature fluctuations and moisture, and if you don’t move it around, it will stay in tune longer. We had our piano tuned over a year ago, and it needs to be tuned again.
Since keyboards don’t require tuning, they’re generally a one-and-done expense. But you’ll still need to purchase some additional equipment to setup your keyboard.
4. Keyboards Give You Sound Options
One nice thing about keyboards is that you have sound options. The number of sounds will vary depending on what you get, but instead of just a piano, you can often create strings, drums, guitars, wind instruments, pads, and even special effects. If you like experimenting with sounds, this can be lots of fun!
Often, the piano sound on a keyboard is noticeably less “full” than a true piano, and one thing I like to do is off-set that by layering strings with the piano sound. It’s fun to play slower songs this way, and let the strings fill out the spaces in the music.
5. Keyboards Are Great for Recording Songs
Keyboards Stay in Tune
The main reason we own a keyboard is because my husband and I like to record songs, and keyboards are great for recording. The reason a keyboard works so well for recording is first because it’s always in tune. Unless your piano is freshly-tuned, it would be better to record piano tracks on a keyboard so you know you’re recording on-pitch. If you started with a slightly-out-of-tune piano track, then tried to add keyboard sounds to that track, you’ll hear the dissonance between the on-pitch electronic sounds and the off-pitch acoustic sounds.
Keyboards Plug Directly into Recording Equipment
Another reason keyboards are great for recording is because they can be plugged directly into your recording setup (compared to a piano)! Our keyboard hooks up to something called a preamp, which then plugs into our computer’s USB port. We use recording software on our computer to capture the sounds from the keyboard and save them as individual tracks, which can be edited and layered.
If you were trying to record from an acoustic piano, you would need to setup a microphone near the soundboard of your piano, then have your microphone hooked up to your recording software. This isn’t as straight-forward to setup (we’ve done this), and you have less control over the volume input levels this way.
I used our acoustic piano to record the piano parts for our Christmas song “Marvelous and Glorious”. I’m really glad we did because it’s a piano-driven song. Our piano had been recently tuned, but the setup was involved, and the volume levels had to be adjusted in our software since inputs were low.
6. Keyboards Give You Volume Control
Another great thing about keyboards is they allow you to have volume control. When someone plays a piano, usually everyone else in the house can hear it. Depending on who’s playing, that might be a really nice thing. But if someone’s on the phone, or if the baby’s sleeping, or if the TV’s on, it’s possible people in the house might get annoyed with the well-meaning piano player.
Keyboards not only allow you to control the volume output directly, they also allow you to use headphones instead of amplifiers or built-in speakers. You can play on a keyboard and be the only one who can hear it!
7. Keyboards are Fun
If you want to foster your creativity, learn more about music technology, and record original songs, keyboards are great tools!
Keyboards offer you lots of options, and can be wonderful tools for creating and enjoying music at the piano! Get a list of the necessary equipment for setting up a keyboard here.